Winston’s Cafe & Bakery
by Craig Smith
Winston’s Cafe & Bakery, located at 1317 Third Street in Downtown Napa, opened in February of last year for breakfast and brunch, and it’s been a hit with locals since the first customers walked in. The food is fantastic, which mostly explains the popularity, but it also has a strong community vibe that makes diners want to come back.
“Community was important to me when we first started talking about opening a restaurant,” said owner Alex Macaraig, “but I didn’t know just how powerful and important would prove to be.” Alex grew up in Napa. “We want this to be a wholesome place. We’re trying to do the right things the right way, always striving for good food at a reasonable price.”
Opening his own restaurant has been Macaraig’s goal for years. “We’ve been together
fora decade,” said wife and Winston’s co-owner Cassan, while holding their new-born daughter Aeva. “And he always talked about his own restaurant.” That it would be a café focusing on baked goods and breakfast wasn’t even that important. Fortunately for diners, that part fell into place nicely.
Macaraig was a chef at Miminashi were Paul Brown frequented as a patron. Paul was operating Paulie’s Bagels and looking for an opportunity to expand his bagel following. It was very popular, but he didn’t have enough space to bake all that he could have sold. In a selfless act, Curtis De Fede, Miminashi chef and owner, suggested the two chefs move on and go into business together, even though it would cost Miminashi a chef.
“We wouldn’t be here without Paul,” said Alex. “We literally sell out of his baked goods every day.” Paul will probably always be known for his bagels, arguably some of the best in the Valley, but the other twenty baked offerings at Winston’s – including scones, donuts, sticky buns and chocolate chip cookies – are just as in demand. Asked why they don’t just make more of everything so they don’t always sell out, Alex is quick to answer, “Everything is made by hand. We try to keep the passion in it.”
The all-day menu ranges from sandwiches to traditional breakfast foods: a variety of prepared bagels and egg-based entrees, salads, burgers, even spam sandwiches and lumpia. Customers love their Eggs Benedict and Huevos Rancheros, and lately they’ve been serving rice bowls.
Alex and Cassan are an engaging couple, each with an easy laugh and relaxed conversational style. They met in San Diego, where both were working. Alex wanted to move back to Napa, and once a wedding was on the horizon, they did so. COVID forced postponing their June 2020 wedding to August, then September. Their son Arlo couldn’t wait that long – the couple got pregnant with him in September. “We had a shot-gun wedding in October,” laughed Cassan. She was pregnant again shortly after Winston’s (named after their rescue pit bull mix) opened. Customers fawned over Cassan during her pregnancy with Aeva. “I told everybody I was going to be out of the restaurant for a while after she was born, and they wouldn’t hear of it. ‘No, you have to bring her in.’ So, here she is,” Cassan said, looking at her daughter with a smile.
The Macaraig’s are humble people, yet proud of their restaurant. The wholesale bakery business has grown beyond their initial expectations. “Paul’s potato buns are in a lot of local restaurants,” said Alex. There have been learning curves. “The back of the house, where I’ve always been as a chef, is different than the front,” said Alex. He watches people as they walk in the door, and likes that they seem comfortable. There are more plans on the horizon, but the couple laughs when asked for specifics. “You mean besides running Winston’s and raising two small children?” said Cassan. Still, they have experimented with operating a pop up at night. “On weekends, we could open for dinner, maybe serving Filipino food one night and something else the next.” Alex laughs, seeming to have caught himself getting too far out there. “There’s time for all that. Whatever we do, we want to do it right.”